Two Miami police officers shot in ambush-style attack: police

(Reuters) – A group of men shot and wounded two police officers in an ambush-style attack outside an apartment building in Miami late on Monday, media reported.

The officers were in an unmarked car at about 10 p.m. at the Annie Coleman housing projects, known as “The Rockies,” when the men walked up to the vehicle and opened fire, the Miami Herald newspaper reported.

At least one of the officers fired back, John Rivera, president of the Miami-Dade police union, said, and both survived the attack in the city’s Brownsville district.

“They were outnumbered and outgunned. God was watching over them tonight,” Rivera told the newspaper.

The unidentified officers were in stable condition at a local hospital, Miami-Dade Police Director Juan Perez told journalists.

“Our officers are out there every night risking their lives trying to bring safety to the community and what you saw today was an ambush-style attack on our police officers,” Perez said.

One of the officers was shot in the leg and the other was grazed by a bullet, the Herald reported.

Other police near the scene rushed the officers to hospital in the back of a pick-up truck, the newspaper reported. The two wounded men are part of a homicide task force-gang unit, it added.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

Zika risk went beyond Florida’s Miami-Dade County: U.S. officials

A map showing the active Zika zone is on display at the Borinquen Health Care Center in Miami, Florida, U.S. on August 9, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Keane/File Photo

By Julie Steenhuysen

(Reuters) – Local transmission of the Zika virus in Florida may have occurred as early as June 15 of last year and likely infected people who lived not only in Miami-Dade County, but in two nearby counties, U.S. health officials said on Monday.

The warning means that some men who donated semen to sperm banks in the area may not have been aware that they were at risk of infection, and may have donated sperm infected with the Zika virus, officials from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration told reporters in a telephone briefing.

The information is concerning because Zika has been shown to cause birth defects in women who become infected while pregnant. Previously, the CDC had warned of the risk of Zika in Miami-Dade County, beginning on July 29.

But the new warning dials that risk back to June 15, and adds in both Broward and Palm Beach Counties, home to the major tourist destinations of Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach.

Zika’s arrival in Florida last summer followed the rapid spread of the mosquito-borne virus through Latin America and the Caribbean.

The World Health Organization last year declared Zika a global health emergency because of its link in Brazil with thousands cases of the birth defect microcephaly, which is marked by small head size and underdeveloped brains that can result in severe developmental problems.

U.S. officials said because of frequent travel between the three Florida counties, some women may have been infected and not been aware of it, either through contracting the infection directly from a mosquito bite while visiting Miami-Dade or through sex with an infected partner who had.

And because Zika has been shown to last up to three months in semen, it may mean some men living in the affected counties may have donated sperm without reporting they were at risk.

CDC Zika expert Dr. Denise Jamieson said the risk applies “particularly (to) women who became pregnant or are planning to become pregnant through the use of donor semen.” She urged these women to “consult their healthcare provider to discuss the donation source and whether Zika virus testing is indicated.”

The new warning came to light through investigations of several cases of Zika reported by the Florida Health Department late last year that suggested residents of Palm Beach or Broward counties may have become infected while traveling back and forth from Miami-Dade. According to the CDC, a total of 215 people are believed to have contracted Zika in Florida last year through the bite of a local mosquito. But since only one in five people infected with Zika become ill, experts believe the actual number was higher.

Officials said they weren’t aware of any women who contracted Zika from infected semen donated to one of the 12 sperm banks in the three-county area. There is no approved test for Zika in sperm.

Jamieson said the CDC does not have any new evidence of local Zika transmission, but said it may occur again in the coming year, adding that the CDC was “on the lookout for additional cases of Zika.”

A recent CDC study estimates that Zika infections cause a twenty-fold spike in the risk of certain birth defects, including microcephaly.

(Reporting by Julie Steenhuysen in Chicago; Editing by Sandra Maler and Mary Milliken)

U.S. citizens targeted after extradition of Haiti ex-coup leader

Guy Philippe marches in Haiti

By Joseph Guyler Delva

PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) – Haitian police have evacuated some 50 U.S. citizens to safety after attempted attacks by supporters of Haitian Senator-elect Guy Philippe, who was arrested and extradited to the United States last week, a police official said on Monday.

Philippe, long wanted by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and remembered for his role in a 2004 coup against former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was elected senator for the southwestern Grand’Anse region in polls on Nov. 20.

But on Thursday, days before he was supposed to be sworn in, police arrested him outside of a radio station and flew him to the United States, where a Miami court charged him with money laundering and drug trafficking. Philippe denies the charges.

The extradition has stirred tensions in Grand’Anse, an area that is rebuilding after damages inflicted by Hurricane Matthew last October and where Philippe enjoys popularity.

Supporters of Philippe have clashed with political opponents in the streets, burned two police vehicles and attacked several police stations, forcing officers to flee, said Berson Soljour, a police commissioner in Grand’Anse.

Philippe supporters are also believed to have attacked two U.S. citizens who ran an orphanage and stole their passports and other belongings from their home, police officials said.

Police have evacuated more than 50 U.S. citizens to safer places in Haiti since Friday, Soljour said, who advised those who chose to stay not to leave their residences. Higher than usual numbers of U.S. citizens are in the region helping with hurricane recovery.

U.S. citizens were evacuated to a police station before moving to a United Nations base, where they waited for preparations to fly them to Port-au-Prince, Soljour said. Some have been flown to the capital, while others are still waiting.

“There are groups linked to Guy Philippe that were actively seeking to attack or capture U.S. citizens following (his) arrest and extradition,” Soljour said.

A spokesman for the U.S. embassy, Karl Adam, said the embassy was aware of the threats and has sent messages to citizens to advise them to avoid certain areas and to be particularly careful.

“I know some have decided to leave and this is not something the embassy is organizing”, Adam said.

More protests were scheduled to take place over the next several days in Grand’Anse and in Port-au-Prince, including outside the U.S. embassy.

Some 200 protesters massed at a barricade across the street from parliament on Monday as new senators were sworn into office, with about half denouncing Philippe’s arrest with slogans, T-shirts and waving signs.

(Editing by Makini Brice and Michael Perry)

New pool of Zika infested mosquitoes found in Florida

By Kami Klein

According to a Miami-Dade County Mosquito Control news release and Fox news health report, officials announced a new pool of Zika infested mosquitoes were trapped.  The news release says that officials learned about the new pool on Monday from trap 5 which is in the previously designated Zika transmission zone near Little Haiti.

The insects had been collected Oct. 5th.

A large portion of Miami Beach remains an active Zika infection zone. Officials announced last week that several people had been infected with Zika in a 1-square-mile area of Miami just north of the Little Haiti neighborhood.

According to the CDC Website, Zika is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito.  These mosquitoes bite both during the day and night.  There is no known vaccine or medicine for Zika but governments around the world are dedicating millions for research and a possible vaccine.  Zika can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus.  So far there have been 878 reported cases of pregnant women with the Zika virus in the United States and District of Columbia with 1,806 reported in U.S. Territories.

Zika infection during pregnancy can cause a birth defect of the brain called microcephaly and other severe fetal brain defects. Other problems have been detected among fetuses and infants infected with Zika virus before birth, such as defects of the eye, hearing deficits, and impaired growth. There have also been increased reports of Guillain-Barré syndrome, an uncommon sickness of the nervous system, in areas affected by Zika.

The following are the statistics of Zika cases as of October 6th, 2016.  The top states reporting most cases being travel associated are New York with 858 cases, Florida 708, California, 298 and Texas at 228.  Virtually every state has had reports of the Zika virus.

US States

  • Locally acquired mosquito-borne cases reported: 128
  • Travel-associated cases reported: 3,807
  • Laboratory acquired cases reported:  1
  • Total: 3,936
    • Sexually transmitted: 32
    • Guillain-Barré syndrome: 13

US Territories

  • Locally acquired cases reported: 25,871
  • Travel-associated cases reported: 84
  • Total: 25,955*
    • Guillain-Barré syndrome: 40

 

Find out more facts on the Zika virus including tips for keeping your family safe at the CDC Website .

 

 

 

 

 

Florida declares new area of Zika transmission in Miami

avoid Zika ad on an airplane

By Julie Steenhuysen

(Reuters) – Florida officials on Thursday announced a new area of Zika transmission in the Miami region and have called on the federal government for funding to help fight the outbreak.

Florida Governor Rick Scott said state health officials have confirmed that local transmission of the mosquito-borne Zika virus is occurring in a new small area in Miami-Dade County, where the state believes two women and three men have been infected by the virus.

The governor said the state’s health department believes Zika transmission is only occurring in Miami-Beach and in the new area, which covers about 1 square mile (2.6 square km).

Zika, which is spread primarily by mosquitoes but also sexually, is a concern for pregnant women and their partners because the virus has been liked with a series of birth defects including microcephaly, marked by small head size and underdeveloped brains that can lead to severe developmental problems in babies.

Last month, U.S. health officials urged pregnant women to consider putting off all nonessential travel to Miami due to the Zika virus even as the state lifted a travel warning for the Wynwood, the Miami neighborhood which was the first site of local Zika transmission in the continental United States.

Florida has reported a total of 164 cases of Zika caused by local mosquito transmission, including 19 people who were infected in the state but live elsewhere. There are also five cases in which it was not clear whether transmission occurred in Florida or elsewhere.

In a statement released on Thursday, Scott said the announcement of the new area of transmission underscores the “urgent need” for federal funding to fight the virus, adding that the state still has not received any of the funding that was approved by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama two weeks ago.

Scott said he has asked the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to work directly with the Miami-Dade Mosquito Control District to identify best practices for defeating Zika in the new area.

Florida officials had already reported four of the five cases of Zika that occurred in the new area of transmission in Miami-Dade County. “With the confirmation of today’s case, this area now meets the CDC’s criteria for a new zone,” officials said in a statement.

The Zika virus was first detected in Brazil last year and has since spread across the Americas. It has been linked to more than 1,800 cases of microcephaly in Brazil.

(Reporting by Julie Steenhuysen in Chicago; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

Florida declares neighborhood Zika free; CDC remains cautious

Florida Gov. Rick Scott speaks at a press conference about the Zika virus in Doral, Florida,

By Julie Steenhuysen and Ransdell Pierson

(Reuters) – U.S. health officials on Monday continued to advise pregnant women and their partners to consider postponing non-essential travel to Miami to avoid the risk of exposure to Zika, even as Florida Governor Rick Scott declared the city’s Wynwood neighborhood Zika-free and invited visitors to return.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement that the Wynwood neighborhood of Miami had been considered an area of active Zika virus transmission from June 15 to Sept. 18, 2016. It urged pregnant women who lived in or traveled to the neighborhood to consider getting tested for Zika.

“We want to continue to emphasize to pregnant women that they still should consider postponing non-essential travel for all of Miami-Dade (County). That is still in effect,” said CDC spokesman Tom Skinner.

Wynwood is the first neighborhood in the continental United States to have a local outbreak of Zika, a mosquito-borne virus that has been shown to cause birth defects.

Florida’s governor, at a news conference earlier on Monday, said there have not been any cases of Zika in the Wynwood neighborhood in the past 45 days, and declared that “everybody should be coming back here and enjoying themselves.”

“We had an issue, everybody took it seriously and we solved it,” he said.

Scott’s pronouncement followed news on Friday that the state had expanded the zone with active Zika transmission to nearby Miami Beach after five new cases of the virus were detected.

The Zika zone in Miami Beach, a popular tourist destination, tripled in size, growing from 1.5 square miles to 4.5 square miles. As of Friday, Florida has a total of 93 cases of Zika caused by local mosquitoes.

Zika is a particular threat to pregnant women because the virus can cause serious birth defects in babies whose mothers were infected during pregnancy, including microcephaly, a condition in which the brain is undersized, reflecting arrested development.

Scott also called on the U.S. government to approve spending to arrest any future spread of the virus in Florida and elsewhere, including funds for mosquito abatement, education and testing for Zika. A spending bill has been delayed in Congress.

(Reporting by Colleen Jenkins, Julie Steenhuysen and Ransdell Pierson; Editing by Dan Grebler)

Florida is investigating apparent new case of locally transmitted Zika

Florida Gov. Rick Scott speaks at a press conference about the Zika virus in Doral, Florida, U.S. on August 4, 2016.

By Julie Steenhuysen

(Reuters) – Florida health officials are investigating a new non-travel- related case of Zika virus in Palm Beach County, but it is not yet clear whether the person contracted the virus from local mosquitoes or from a recent trip to Miami.

Governor Rick Scott said in a statement on Monday that the infected person recently traveled to Miami-Dade County, which is experiencing an outbreak of Zika caused by local mosquito transmission. So far, 16 people have been infected in the Miami area. The Palm Beach case brings the state’s tally to 17.

An investigation was under way to determine how the person in Palm Beach County became infected.

The governor said the state still believed active transmission of the virus were confined to a one-square-mile (260-hectare) area in Miami-Dade County that includes Miami’s Wynwood district.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is warning pregnant women to avoid this area in Miami because Zika has been tied to birth defects, including microcephaly, which can case severe developmental problems.

With the school year approaching, Scott said he had ordered the department of health to work with the state’s department of education “to ensure students, parents, educators and district leaders have all the resources and guidance they need to combat the Zika virus.”

The continuing Zika outbreak was first detected last year in Brazil, where it has been linked to more than 1,700 cases of the microcephaly, and has since spread rapidly through the Americas. Its arrival in the continental United States has been widely anticipated.

(Reporting by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Bernard Orr and Jonathan Oatis)

Pregnant in Miami: Zika’s arrival adds new anxieties

Visitors walk through the Wynwood arts district of Miami

By Letitia Stein and Jilian Mincer

TAMPA, Fla./NEW YORK (Reuters) – Since Florida officials declared that the Zika virus is circulating in the state, Miami-area resident Karla Maguire has avoided taking her toddler son to a playground where mosquitoes may be biting. She walks her dogs less frequently and vigilantly applies bug repellent when she must go outside.

An obstetrician and gynecologist who is herself pregnant, Maguire has become scrupulous about following the advice that she gives patients to protect against Zika, which can cause a rare but devastating birth defect. Maguire works near the city’s Wynwood neighborhood identified on Friday as the first site of local Zika transmission in the continental United States.

“It is frustrating to spend a lot of time avoiding mosquitoes,” said Maguire, a physician at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, noting the discomfort of wearing long sleeves during Florida’s steamy summer. “You just end up being inside a lot.”

Physicians in Miami and beyond have seen this week a spike in concerned calls from pregnant women, particularly after health officials advised them not to travel to Wynwood and said any expecting mothers who had done so since mid-June should be tested for Zika.

On Wednesday, Florida said it would provide Zika testing to pregnant women at county health departments at no cost, and make available additional lab services to handle “the expected increase in tests being administered.”

The warnings raised anxiety in a city already on high alert for Zika’s arrival from Latin America, where it has spread quickly since first being detected in Brazil last year. The threat to newborns aside, Zika is otherwise considered a mild illness, and up to 80 percent of people infected have no symptoms.

All summer, Florida health officials have issued daily notices tallying the rise in cases acquired through travel to countries where Zika is widespread and advised the public to protect against mosquito bites. Along with 15 local cases, Florida is monitoring 391 picked up through travel abroad, which include 55 cases involving pregnant women.

One baby born in the state to a woman infected in Haiti has been diagnosed with the birth defect microcephaly, a condition defined by small head size that can lead to developmental problems.

TAILORING THE MESSAGE

Health officials expect that southern U.S. states vulnerable to mosquito-borne disease will see smaller, localized Zika outbreaks, given widespread use of window screens and air conditioning, compared with Latin American countries.

In Miami’s trendy Wynwood district, known as a place to hop between art galleries and tour outdoor murals, some doctors fear that a counterculture ethos may diminish the impact of medical recommendations to combat Zika.

Batsheva Stern, who is 28 weeks pregnant, sees no reason to avoid the district, where her husband, Zak, owns a popular bakery.

“I’m not so nervous,” said Stern, 27, recounting the advice of her midwife: “Don’t freak out, nothing is happening.”

But Dr. Elizabeth Etkin-Kramer, a gynecologist in private practice nearby, worries about birth defects resulting from unplanned pregnancies in some of her Wynwood-area patients who eschew birth control pills, noting the community is also skeptical of vaccines and antibiotics.

On Tuesday, she met with a patient who is 18 weeks pregnant and working near the affected area. The patient questioned her recommendation to be tested for Zika infection.

“Her feeling is, if something is going on, there is nothing you can do about it, short of termination,” said Etkin-Kramer, an officer in the Florida district of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. “I think it would be important to know, and if God forbid she is positive, then we can look closely by ultrasound and get a lot more information.”

Beatriz Mendes Pereira Lopes, 26, an attorney who is five months pregnant, has moved twice trying to avoid Zika. She went to Miami in April, as the hot months in her home of Brazil spurred mosquito breeding.

Last month, she returned to Brazil, now in its cooler winter, anticipating its mosquitoes would be in hibernation. Now that Zika has begun circulating in Miami, she concedes that her future options may be limited until a vaccine is developed.

“It’s impossible to get rid of all the world’s mosquitoes,” she said via email.

(Reporting by Letitia Stein in Tampa, Fla. and Jilian Mincer in New York; Additional reporting by Zachary Fagenson in Miami; Editing by Michele Gershberg and Bernard Orr)

Shooting of unarmed black man in Florida heightens calls for police review

North Miami Police Department

By Zachary Fagenson

NORTH MIAMI, Fla. (Reuters) – The shooting by police of an unarmed black man as he lay on the ground with his hands in the air in North Miami, Florida, raised calls on Thursday for U.S. police to review their training programs and policies.

Behavioral therapist Charles Kinsey was shot on Monday as he tried to get an autistic patient back to a nearby group home from which he had wandered. A cell phone video showed Kinsey with his hands extended above his chest moments before a bullet struck his leg.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida said the incident showed more police training was needed, particularly for situations involving people with disabilities.

“We are grateful that both Mr. Kinsey and his patient are alive, but without changes in policy and improved training of officers, we will very likely see more needless shootings and deaths at the hands of police,” Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida, said in a statement.

North Miami Police Chief Gary Eugene said on Thursday that an investigation into the shooting would be conducted by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement at his request.

Kinsey’s lawyer, Hilton Napoleon of the firm Rasco Klock Perez & Nieto in Coral Gables, Florida, sent the video to Reuters on Thursday. Napoleon did not provide information about who filmed it. Neither he nor Kinsey were immediately available for comment.

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said on Thursday the U.S. Justice Department was gathering information about the incident, the latest controversial shooting of a black man by police in the United States.

Kinsey told Miami’s WSVN-TV that he was trying to calm the autistic patient when police showed up on Monday evening. Media reports have said Kinsey is 47 years old.

Kinsey said he dropped to the ground and lay on his back with his hands up and open to comply with commands from the police officers.

“As long as I’ve got my hands up, they’re not going to shoot me. This is what I’m thinking,” Kinsey said in an interview with WSVN-TV from a hospital bed on Wednesday. “Wow, was I wrong.”

Kinsey said he kept his hands up throughout the incident and that he asked the officer, “Sir, why did you shoot me?”

“He said, ‘I don’t know.'”

Police said in a statement that the officers were responding to an emergency call about an armed man threatening suicide. They said the officer, who has not been identified, is on administrative leave according to standard procedures.

The shooting itself was not recorded, but in the video, which has been widely circulated on social media, Kinsey can be heard talking to his patient and police while lying flat in the street.

“All he has is a toy trunk in his hands … I am a behavior therapist at a group home,” Kinsey yelled in the video. He also urged his patient, who was sitting nearby, to lie down and be still. The autistic man told him to “shut up” and did not comply.

Clint Bower, chief executive for the Miami Achievement Center for the Developmentally Disabled, which runs the group home where Kinsey has worked for more than a year, said, “My employee saved that young man’s life.”

The United States has seen demonstrations from coast to coast over the use of excessive force by police, especially toward black men.

In the past month there have been deadly shootings of black men in Louisiana and Minnesota and eight police officers have been killed in Dallas and Baton Rouge.

Police in North Miami have offered few details about the shooting. Chief Eugene told reporters that officers had responded to the scene with the threat of a gun in mind, but no gun was recovered.

“There are many questions about what happened on Monday night,” he said. “I assure you we will get all the answers.”

Florida Department of Law Enforcement spokeswoman Molly Best said the agency would not comment on the shooting.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien, Colleen Jenkins and Michelle Gershberg; Writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Toni Reinhold)

Schools in South Florida, Houston and Dallas Also Received Threats

Multiple major school districts across the United States are reporting that they received threats similar to the ones that were made against schools Los Angeles and New York earlier this week.

Schools in Miami, Houston and Dallas all reported receiving the threats on Wednesday evening. The threats weren’t determined to be credible and schools in those cities stayed open Thursday.

School officials in Los Angeles canceled all classes on Tuesday after receiving a threat that involved backpacks and other packages. The threat was ultimately determined to be a hoax.

New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton told reporters at a Tuesday news conference that their schools got a similar threat, but determined it wasn’t serious. Classes went on as planned.

Speaking at a news conference Thursday, Miami-Dade County Public School Superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho said that someone emailed board members in multiple school districts on Wednesday night with the exact same message. After speaking with various law enforcement agencies, the threat wasn’t deemed credible and Thursday went on as “a regular school day.”

Still, the district increased its law enforcement presence in schools.

Carvalho said at the news conference that schools in Broward County, Florida, and Long Beach, California, received similar threats. The Houston Independent School District and Dallas Independent School District also got similar threats, officials there said in statements. The Orange County (Florida) Public Schools were also threatened, according to their Facebook page.

“At this time, we do not believe the threat is credible, but as a precautionary measure law enforcement officers are in the process of conducting random sweeps of school district buildings to ensure student safety,” the Houston Independent School District said in a statement.

The Dallas Independent School District said bomb-sniffing dogs were used in their sweeps.

The threats are being made against some of the largest school districts in the country.

According to American School & University Magazine, New York and Los Angeles are America’s largest and second-largest school districts in terms of enrollment, respectively. Miami-Dade ranked fourth, Broward County was sixth, Houston was seventh, Orange County was 10th and Dallas was 14th. Together, those seven districts educate close to 3 million students every day.